Saturday, March 31, 2012


Today was grocery day. I loaded Gideon and Sophie into the car and we headed to the WalMarts. They needed to get out of the house. I wanted Sophie's opinion on what to get. She can actually voice her wants and preferences now!

We're walking down the aisles; Gideon is in the seat of the cart and Sophie is next to me. Sophie is gleefully pointing at things she recognizes and calling out the names. She repeats things often and wants me to repeat them, too. I keep her out of the way of other shoppers as best I can but she's 4 and she's fast. She listens well, though, and comes back to me every single time I call her name. I have to call it a lot.

Gideon is DONE WITH THIS about halfway through the aisles. He starts whining and hitting at me. I know this behavior. He just wants to be held.

Aside: We're almost certain that Gideon is going to test somewhere on the spectrum. He only shows two feelings; happiness and frustration. The rest of the time, he is a blank slate. He lines up toys and builds sculptures that no 2-year old should be able to see. He is almost perfectly mute except for a few repetitive speeches from TV and songs. I can already see stimming when he gets upset. The only thing that is different is that he seems to crave rather than shy away from physical touch. It MUST be from me, though. I have to hold him a certain way when he gets upset. I have to speak to him or sing his lullabye.

I stop our cart, make sure Sophie is holding onto the side and looking at the cracker selection and reach down to hug Gideon. I speak softly to him and we count to ten. He perks up a little and we go on our way. It's then that I see a young woman giving me a horribly dirty look. She walks away with a young man while muttering something about "spoiled brats".


I desperately wanted to turn around and say something witty, scathing and educational to this woman. I wanted to yell at her that we were actually having a very good day. I wanted to tell her about all of the leaps that Sophie had done over the last month. I wanted to tell her why she was so very wrong about my children.

Instead, I turned around and asked Sophie whether she wanted Cheez-Its or Goldfish. She wanted Goldfish. The color ones.

That woman was ignorant. She has no idea what my family struggles with every single day. She chose to make a snap decision based on what she saw. She saw a very tall girl who looks to be about 5 that can barely speak running back and forth across the aisles while her mother called her back every 3 minutes. She saw a little boy whining and smacking his mother and the mother just cradled him like it was OK.

Autism, PDD-NOS, Aspergers and other spectrum disorders don't show on the outside. It's not like having a child in a wheelchair or a child who uses sign language. Our kids usually just look rude and poorly parented. In reality, those kids are my life. Not a day goes by where I don't try to teach them something about God, manners, speech or anything else I can do. I feel like I have to teach sideways because that's how they see the world. It's slow going because I have to learn them first, then translate what I want to teach into their language and then teach them.

The next time you see a mother struggling with her children, please don't make a snap decision. That child may be battling something you can't see. That child might just be late for a nap. Either way, give an encouraging smile and let that mother know that she's going to be OK.

Friday, March 30, 2012



The Boy is napping. Actually napping.

Milly has finished her nap and is chatting to herself. I have her lunch ready.

Sophie is watching an episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

I"indisposed" and feel comfortable enough that Sophie won't set something on fire that I actually close the door.

All of the sudden, the door FLIES open and Sophie is standing there with her big Daisy doll and little Daisy doll clutched to her.

"DA POCO TAKER!", she says in a hushed tone. Then she leaves. (That's "The coconut taker!" in Sophie-speak and a quote from the episode.)

Then I laugh until I cry.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mama's Black and White and Red All Over

Mama's Black and White and Red All Over

Freezer Meals: Review

Today marks the end of the first week of the Freezer Meal experiment. I think this is working out nicely!

Here's what the first week looked like after a few switches:

Not too shabby!

My freezer is also pretty darn full.
  • chicken parm casserole bag
  • 2 roast chicken bags
  • 4 chicken fajita bags
  • 4 marinated steak bags
  • beef stroganoff bag
I haven't even started making the other meals. It's a little time consuming and difficult to do with ankle biters. I do still have a lot of chicken that is ready to be pounded, stuffed and marinated in different ways. I think I might have overbought a little this month and I'm ahead of myself for next month. No bother! Chicken was on a great sale and now I can focus on some good fresh veggies for sides. I also didn't take into account how much leftovers I would have. That stroganoff recipe makes enough for 3 nights which is why we had a leftover night.

I looked at the food budget and it has gone WAY down. We haven't been going to the store every other day to get this and that. I might send my husband to the store after work to get a few things but he's much better about sticking to a strict list.

Plus, if I had to listen to my daughter ask for grapes one more time then my brain was going to flee screaming into the night.

Notes to self: Buy grapes on sale and freeze them. Cut down the stroganoff recipe. Congratulate husband for eating spinach.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Fruit Fanatics

Clerks look at me funny when I come through their line with 30 pounds of bananas, 20 pounds of apples, 15 pounds of clementines and 14 bags of grapes.

They have no idea that this is just a weekend snack to my children.

Sophie is just now starting to request little bits of chocolate. It's few and far between. She would much rather have a bowl of fresh strawberries with a cup of apple juice on the side. Gideon would eat 5 oranges in one sitting if I let him. I don't because I know that he would turn himself inside out. Even Milly, my little chocolate milk addict, sets aside cupcakes with disdain because there is fresh pineapple available.

I love my little fruit freaks.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Couch Mater


I failed to learn my verse for February. It seems appropriate that my March verse is 2 Corinthians 12:9.

Paul is writing a letter to the church in Corinth. In this chapter, he's talking about seeing other men do great things for the Lord. These men he will boast about he will never boast about himself. He speaks of a "thorn" in his life that he has thrice asked God to remove from his life. We never find about what Paul is suffering. Here is God's answer to Paul's pleas for release:

But he replied, “My gift of undeserved grace is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak.” So if Christ keeps giving me his power, I will gladly brag about how weak I am.  (CEV)

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (ESV)

God tells Paul to stop asking for the thorn to be taken from him. He tells Paul that what he sees as a weakness is going to be used by God to show that the power comes from God alone and not from Paul. Paul accepts this and decides to let people know that he is weak, human and flawed so that they can see that every good and powerful thing happens all from God.

I feel so flawed lately. More so than ever. Maybe it feels highlighted because I'm struggling with my thorn. Parenting three children, especially one with special needs and one who is showing signs of the same special needs, with an anxiety disorder makes me want to run screaming for my safe place. It makes me want to shut down and go back to my old and destructive habits.

I then remind myself that God gave these children to me and to Ben. He had a reason for giving these three specific children with their specific needs to us.

I am too weak to care for my children. I am too scared to know what to do when meltdowns happen. I'm get so anxious that I feel myself separate from my body and the world swells around me.

Whatever good things you see in my life, whatever milestones you see my children reach, whatever smiles and laughs come out of my mouth are all from God. His power is made perfect and very evident in my weakness.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring Reading Thing

Ah, books. I always say that I'll read anything. Then I take a look at my Goodreads 2012 Challenge. 

Wow. That's a lot of geeky books.

My girlfriend told me of a challenge of which she was taking part and it sounded like fun.

I was ready to just take the next few books from my Goodreads list and put them up here when I paused and thought.

Why not really challenge myself?

So I looked through my To Read list and found books that I believe will further my walk with the Lord. I want to know Him better. I want to learn more about how to walk with Him. That's the reason they're on this list.

So here is my list:

Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
Francis Chan

Going All the Way: Planning for a Marriage That Goes the Distance
Craig Groeschel

Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World: Finding Intimacy with God in the Busyness of Life
Joanna Weaver

Sacred Influence: How God Uses Wives to Shape the Souls of Their Husbands
Gary L. Thomas

The challenge begins on March 20th and ends on June 20th. This is my challenge. In June we'll see how I did!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mondays: Slow Cooker Day

Monday is always a reset day. The kids and I have to get used to Daddy going back to work and there's always a weekend mess to clean up.

Enter Mama's Best Friend: The Slow Cooker.

Menu: Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Sauteed Mushrooms

I've already posted the recipe once. I truly love this beef stroganoff. It's comforting and creamy. I've taken steps to making it a little more point friendly by tweaking it.
  • replace the condensed Golden mushroom soup with 98% Fat Free mushroom soup
  • replace the beefy onion soup with Progresso French onion soup
  • use half of a chopped fresh onion instead of half of a bag of frozen
  • don't add the water
  • use reduced fat cream cheese
After making the meal for tonight, I just made a second meal in a labeled Ziploc bag. I put the stew meat, onion, soups, seasonings and Worcestshire sauce in the bag and squished it around. This will go in the slow cooker straight from the freezer.
I also labeled the cream cheese so I would remember to save it for that meal. There's another meal in my freezer stockpile!

Here are our dinners. Mine is the one surrounded by glorious wonderful mushrooms while Ben has the pile of banal mashed potatoes.


Poor boy does not share my love for fungi. I love him still.

Sundays: Roast Chicken

Sunday is a day for the slow cooker. It's a day for a nice big roast. I'll mix it up on other months when other meats go on sale. This month, whole chickens were on sale.

Menu: Roast chicken, garlic mashed potatoes, steamed green beans

First, I realized that I needed to partially thaw all 4 of my chickens. I couldn't pry the dadgum legs apart and get to the giblets to save my life. On Sunday morning, I set up my assembly line.

  • 4 chickens, giblets removed ("HEARTS AND KIDNEYS ARE TINKER TOYS!" Name that movie!)
  • Spice rub (recipe below)
  • 4 slow cooker liner bags
  • 3 labeled gallon sized freezer bags
  • 2 onions, peeled and cut into eighths
First I put together the chicken for that night's dinner. I put the slow cooker liner in the slow cooker and laid the chicken to rest. Then I rubbed it all over with my spice mix.

  • 4 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

Then I threw the top on and set it on low. All done until dinner!

Next, I did the same thing with the rest of the chickens. This time I twirled the top of the slow cooker bag until the chicken was nicely tucked together. Then everything got stuffed into a labeled freezer bag. Now I have three Sunday dinners waiting to be put into the slow cooker.

I don't add any moisture to the slow cooker as the chicken is cooking. It will create enough of its own and the slow cooker bag keeps everything self-basting. I did go in about halfway and turned the chicken over to let it cook a little more evenly.

And we have chicken! When I pulled it out of the slow cooker, it fell apart. Seriously. I was left holding a leg in the tongs and my shirt was splattered. I served this with potatoes and steamed green beans. The onion was WOOOOONDERFUL with the chicken. The potatoes were just for the hubby since I'm watching my points. I'll try to update points values later.

Enjoy your bird flesh!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Prepping The Meals!

After buying all of the ingredients, the next thing to do was put everything together.

Of course I made a list for that!

This lets me know what to do up until the time I need to put it in the bag to freeze. I also have it listed at the top of the recipe how many times I need to make that specific recipe. I've even reminded myself to mark certain things in the fridge so that 3 weeks from now I'm not staring at a pack of cream cheese wondering why it's there. It will be marked "Beef Stroganoff 4/9" and I won't put it on my toast.

It is destined for better things. Like beef and mushrooms. Lots of mushrooms. Glorious mushrooms.


Ahem.  So, this is my process! My basic thought is if I'm going to make it once then why not make it twice or 4 times and freeze the excess for other nights? If I have an hour of free time then why not take that hour and make 4 bags of chicken fajitas so that I don't have to do it on a night where Milly is going through her "Mama has walked away and has disappeared therefore I must SCREAM!" phases?

Mama Looks Good In Yellow

Mama Looks Good In Yellow

Duck Feet

She eats socks. Who needs fries?

The Shopping Lists

After I put together my meal plan, the next step was to break that down into a shopping list. Actually, it was a few shopping lists.

One of the problems that I had before was that I would buy everything at once and about halfway through the month all of my produce had gone bad and my dairy had curdled. So here are my shopping lists.

This is the main shopping list. First I took a trip through the kitchen to see what I had on hand and what I needed. Then I put together this Main List. I'm also prepping ahead on breakfasts and lunches so those are in the shopping list as well. This list is a little longer than most because I needed to restock my spice rack. I also had looked at the circulars to see what meats were on sale and tailored my meal plans around that. Chicken and steaks were on sale at Sprouts and Albertsons. Hooray for lean meats! I'm also easing into this by making a lot of slow cooker meals and meals that know very well. These are things I can make in my sleep.

Each week then gets one of these; a Perishable List. These are the weekly trips I will make to Sprouts and another store for the produce and dairy that is needed just for that week. This is perilous because I am an impulse buyer. I am determined to stick to my lists no matter how much I think I need another bag of Pop Chips. My kids go through about 2 gallons of milk a week. I have seriously looked at the zoning laws and thought about how much a cow costs. Until then, I have to go each week and get their milk along with the rest of the sour cream and whatever produce is on sale. I'm grateful that my kids drink milk and eat fruit rather than ask for soda and candy. It just means I have to practice my resilience when I go through Sprouts and look at all of the wonderful things in the bulk section.

I don't need chocolate covered espresso beans. I don't.

Maybe just a Ritter Sport...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Adventures in Once a Month / Freezer Cooking

In an attempt to force myself to cook daily, lower calories and tighten the budget I've been trying different methods of "Once A Month Cooking". This is where you go grocery shopping once a month, come home and prepare individual meals in freezer bags, casserole dishes and other holders to label and freeze. These meals are then ready to be taken out and cooked by your meal plan for the month. This eliminates the need for a 30 minute prep when your kids have stolen your will to live much less chop onions and smash garlic cloves.

I've tried different websites claiming to hold all of your recipes and then collate a shopping list. None of them did it right. OK, none of them did it MY way. So after much trial and error I found my way.

So, this is just my meal plan. It's color-coded by week from Wednesday to Wednesday. This is because I go produce shopping at Sprouts every week and Wednesdays are Double-Ad Day. (I'm cheap.) I'll get into the shopping stuff on a later post.

I started going by a system. Sundays are Roast Day, Mondays are Slow Cooker Days, Tuesday is Mediterranean Night, Wednesday is Italian Night, Thursday is Fajita Night, Friday is Steak Night. On Saturdays, I will actually cook something not out of the freezer just to give myself a little nudge.

Here I go. I will post recipes and pictures. I'll fill you in on the shopping process. I'll let you know if we're sticking to it and if it's making a difference in our wallet and my Weight Watchers Points.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Monday Brain Dump

Quiet. I know it's Tuesday.

Sophie has learned how to ask for juice. She comes to one of us and says "I may juice?" Then she thinks it over a little and says "May I juice?" We're all doing a happy dance and drinking a lot of diluted OJ.

Milly has a compulsion to empty any box or bowl that she can find. It's really irritating when her sister and brother have bowls of cereal in the morning.

WOW. That guy on the Sprout morning show is secure in his manhood to dance like that. Especially with an overgrown squeaking chick.

Milly toddles almost everywhere now. She's my third child and I'm still just enchanted by her little steps. She gets a giant grin on her face and will "run" at you to attack you with kisses and hugs. Then the world explodes into fairy dust. It's the most wonderful feeling ever.

Gideon is having trouble getting to sleep at night. He needs extra cuddling and his lullabye. He wraps his little arms around my neck and clutches at me like he's terrified. I wish I could see inside his little mind to see what's bothering my Little Prince.

Ben and I found a church in Wylie that has a monthly Parents Night Out. We took the kids last Friday night and had a date night at Studio Movie Grill. It's only from 6-10 so we have to drop them off right on time and then BOOK IT to the movie theater. We chose SMG so that we could have dinner and a movie all at once. Spinach and mushroom quesadillas are delicious but are a little difficult to eat in the dark while wearing 3D glasses. We saw John Carter.


After the movie ended, we raced back to the church with 5 minutes to spare. Gideon was sound asleep, Milly was watching a movie in a volun-grandma's lap and Sophie was acting like she had spent the whole time snorting a sugar and cocaine mixture. They had so much fun. We're putting this on the calendar as a monthly date night for us and a play night for the kids.

Sophie has not removed her flashing Minnie Mouse shoes all morning. Her Nonny would be proud.

Milly's hair gets longer and curlier every day. Ben calls her Sunshine. She looks like the girliest girl in all of Girldom but it's all a ruse. She eats like a horse, watches baseball and NASCAR, farts enough to peel the paint and loves her toy cars. Her Daddy is so proud.

I just finished reading Mists of Avalon. It took me a week and a half. I feel so...normal. Next up is Cinder.

I've officially lost 20 pounds on Weight Watchers. Next up is my 40 pound goal. This is surreal.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Red Flags

He's not talking.

He has a very talkative older sister.
Boys talk later than girls.
Sometimes he'll repeat and talk with Sesame Street.

He's not responding to me.

He's just 2. 2 year olds are stubborn.
Maybe he can't hear me. Schedule another hearing test.

He's lining up his action figures in precise ways and gets REALLY upset when you move one.

He's just playing.
He's protective of his toys. He has to be with two sisters ready to steal them.

"On August 15th, the BSRC published a paper in Pediatrics which reexamined the recurrence rate of autism in high risk families. It found that in families with one or more children on the autism spectrum, the chances that a baby sibling will develop autism are around 1 in 5, more than double previous estimates of 1 in 10 to 1 in 30. The rate was much higher among younger brothers (1 in 4) than among younger sisters (1 in 9). In families with more than one older child on the spectrum, 1 in 3 infants eventually developed autism. The severity of the older sibling's autism did not affect the risk to younger brothers or sisters, nor did other family attributes such as parental age, ethnicity, or birth order."
 - Autism Speaks

...higher in younger brothers?

Bottom Line:  It's time to cry, pray and make some appointments.